To someone who had just met him, there was no doubt that Jordan Burnham was the ideal high school student. Peers of all ages admired his ability to seemingly have it all—ranging from his outgoing personality, to his athletic ability, to his impressive academic record. Although Burnham’s high school self was identical to the perfect teenage prototype, there was one trait which went unseen by the public’s knowledge: Burnham’s struggle with severe depression. On Nov. 19 at 6 p.m., Jordan Burnham will be making his way to Rocky 200 where Vassar students will have the chance to hear this moving story first hand.
Like so many other victims of depression, Burnham appeared perfectly happy on the outside, yet in actuality was experiencing the polar opposite emotions on the inside. For Burnham, these drastic feelings first began to flare up when his older sister, who he also considered his confidante, left their childhood home and went off to college. Without a familiar face to regularly seek advice from, Jordan Burnham—for the first time—truly felt alone. This loneliness later transformed into depression, but unlike his emotions which continued to evolve in his head, Burnham was stuck at a hault and could not begin to grasp the idea of speaking up about his feelings. Like many individuals who experience feelings of depression, Burnham feared that anyone he spoke to, “just wouldn’t understand”—especially when so many of his close family and friends always viewed him as a happy, positive and carefree teenage boy.
As his emotions continued to bottle up inside, Burnham relied heavily on alcohol to temporarily ease unspoken feelings which circulated throughout his mind. Every time Burnham abused alcohol he intended to finally admit the truth to family members and/or friends. But too many times a strong force of hesitance and fear got in the way. Feeling like there was no other outlet, Jordan Burnham attempted to commit suicide during his senior year by jumping out of a nine story window.
After surviving the tragic incident that nearly took his life, Jordan Burnham not only discovered the true meaning of a miracle, but also discovered a new and profound responsibility. Following his incident, Burnham became embedded to his role as an educator and speaker who aspires to prevent and assist those from falling into the same trouble that he did.
Since his senior year, Jordan Burnham has teamed up with the mental health organization, Active Minds. As expressed in its mission statement, Active Minds is a nonprofit organization devoted to “empowering students to speak openly about mental health in order to educate others and encourage help-seeking.” Furthermore, the program emphasizes the importance of mental health awareness and education specifically throughout college campuses. Since collaborating with Active Minds, Burnham has developed an extensive commitment to share his personal story throughout prestigious publications, television shows and lectures across the country in the hopes of stressing that, “seeking help is not a sign of weakness.”
Hoping to reduce the stigma around depression, the Office of Health Education contacted Burnham and anticipate that his presence will not only benefit individuals with the physical and mental health recovery process, but also inspire students to shape healthier and supportive communities. On behalf of the Office of Health Education, advocate Roxanne Ringer adds that the department “believes that this is a topic that needs more attention on campus.” Even beyond the college bubble, the health office believes that “this talk will not only make a difference in the lives of people currently struggling with depression, but also foster an open-dialogue around mental health.” While the lecture is open to any and all guests—free of admission—fellow student Jonah Williams who is working alongside Ringer on this program, predicts that, “talking openly about issues such as depression will be very beneficial to the college community. I hope that it will not only help those struggling with depression, but will also encourage other students to become advocates of mental health on campus.”
Jordan Burnham’s speech stresses issues such as depression, suicide and stigma reduction. Listening to his traumatic experience firsthand will reinforce the notion that an emotional toll, such as depression, impacts the individual, family and friends—making it an applicable and meaningful event for all Vassar figures. Following his story, the Office of Health Education will be providing food and moral support from counselors for anyone in attendance.